How to Foster a Culture of Healthy Risk-Taking


In a very real way, risk lies at the core of opportunity. Imagine, for a moment, a workplace where no one feels comfortable taking a risk. People have big, bold ideas, but they never share them because doing so might lead to failure. They see new, more innovative ways of working, but they never try them because to suggest something different would upset the status quo. The result is stagnation: the days go by with nothing ever really changing, improving or evolving. People do what’s expected of them — but nothing more.

Now imagine the opposite: a workplace where taking risks is encouraged and celebrated. People feel safe experimenting, improvising, and even failing in front of one another, and they’re not afraid to float big, bold, even out-of-the-box ideas. Every now and then, one of these disruptive ideas leads to new and better ways of thinking, working, collaborating and succeeding — and the effect is contagious, so that everyone feels incentivized to push boundaries and think outside the box.

Which of these two places would you rather work? The choice is clear, and as a manager, you have an opportunity to make healthy, thoughtful, creative risk-taking a part of your culture. When your direct reports see that you support their efforts to dive into the unknown and come back with great ideas, questions and solutions, they’ll be more fulfilled, more creative and more successful. Here are three ways you can get started:

1. Celebrate a project that didn’t go as planned

It’s great to celebrate success, but finding value in failure can be just as useful and motivating for your team. It’s simple: when your direct reports see that you can openly and comfortably discuss things that didn’t pan out, it will create an atmosphere that allows people to feel safe and supported when taking risks.

2. When a risk pays off, say so

In hindsight, success can appear inevitable. But in reality, many things have to come together for a project to succeed or an idea to take root. So when your team takes a risk that leads to success, don’t just celebrate the outcome and call it a day — spend some time revisiting and celebrating the decisions that made it all possible.

3. Make risk part of the plan

In one-on-one meetings, discuss a project each of your direct reports can take on where the outcome is anything but certain. By explicitly making risk-taking part of your blueprint for success, you’ll encourage a culture of more innovation and creativity. 

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